Whether you drink heavily, in moderation, or rarely ever, the fact is that alcohol consumption is extremely common in the United States. According to surveys, over 50% of adults have consumed alcohol in the last month. Although many people use alcohol as a sleep aid, it turns out that alcohol is capable of disrupting your sleep in a number of ways.
Insomnia: Alcohol has been largely associated with issues regarding sleep continuity. When compared to placebo, alcohol leads to longer times to fall asleep, less time asleep throughout the night, and increased waking after initially falling asleep. Additionally, alcohol consumption can decrease rapid eye movement (REM) sleep, which is a stage of sleep associated with dreaming and memory consolidation. Alcohol consumption is also affiliated with short sleep duration, defined as sleeping less than 6 hours.
Circadian Rythm: Alcohol can also delay melatonin secretion, which may partly explain why alcohol consumption is associated with later bedtimes. In fact, frequency and amount of alcohol consumption are some of the predictors for determining if someone is a "morning person" or not. There are of course many other variables, though. Additionally, many people drink on the weekends which leads to later bedtimes on those days compared to the rest of the week. This can make it difficult to establish a consistent sleep and wake cycle.
Breathing Issues: Alcohol consumption is also linked with snoring and obstructive sleep apnea, so if you want to stop keeping your partner awake at night, try drinking less. Not to mention, enhancing the effects of sleep apnea is downright dangerous.
Alcohol can be fun to use as a social stimulant and can be a great way to enjoy time with friends and colleagues. The point of this article is not to shun all alcohol use, but rather to show that it comes with a cost. As long as you're cognizant of that and drinking responsibly, then you're good to go!